Food News, Lifestyle

Lessons in Entrepreneurship (by Fidel Gastro) – Denise Li

The founders of Material World and Matt Basile (aka Fidel Gastro) have something in common: we both resigned from jobs in the media industry to start our own company. Formerly a copywriter at an ad agency, Matt left to pursue his passion for food, cooking for food events within the Toronto underground food scene. After gaining immense popularity for his Cuban-styled sandwiches – or Extremo Sandwiches as they became known as – he then became known for his pop-up cooking and food truck (which he’s coined “Priscilla”), selling his own brand of robust sandwiches. Since then, he’s started his own restaurant, Lisa Marie, and is the star of his own food show, Rebel Without a Kitchen, on the Asian Food Channel.

We caught up with Matt to find out more about his entrepreneurship journey.

Matt Basile, more affectionately known as Fidel Gastro

Matt Basile, more affectionately known as Fidel Gastro

You were a copywriter at an ad agency. What did you like and not like about the job?
I loved coming up with big ideas! I hated seeing really good ideas that never saw the light of day.

What preparations did you do prior to starting your business?
Before I started Fidel Gastro’s I did quite a bit of work. Business plans, concept development, quite a bit of branding and of course, product testing. When I decided to go with the “pop-up route”, most
of the planning and research I did had to be scrapped! I re-wrote my business plan and re-positioned a lot of my branding. The company was officially started in October of 2011, I had done about a year and a half of planning to get to that point.

How did you feel about leaving a stable job to start your own business, and how did you deal with it?
I didn’t quit my job until my business was really ready to go. I had my first event lined up and I had already started to make some solid business connections. I felt quite relieved after I quit my job because Fidel Gastro was something of a “dirty little secret” that I had kept from some of my colleagues. After leaving my job, I was finally free to share what I had been working on. I moved back home with my parents to save money and started hanging out in kitchens and with other chefs just to surrounded with the food industry. I even took on a “job” giving free labour to my friend’s butcher shop in order to use their kitchen to prep for my events.

Do you have any tips for saving or managing your money for people who are thinking of leaving their jobs to pursue entrepreneurship?
You will not make a profit right away so don’t be alarmed when you get to take home a paycheque for a while. You’d be amazed how little you can live off of when you need to!

What are some important traits or attitudes that an entrepreneur needs to have or adopt?
You have to be fearless, full of optimistic passion, have a positive attitude and a little fire in the belly! Some luck is definitely welcomed as well!

What has been the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur?
The most rewarding part is when you create something that people know about. It seems simple but whenever I go out and people say, “Ohhh I love Fidel Gastro’s!”, it makes me extremely proud.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer to people with startups?
If you don’t love what you do then don’t do it.

Finally, you’re known for your Extremo Sandwiches. What exactly are they?
By definition, the extremo sandwich means: nothing is too weird for a sandwich!

Matt Basile’s show, Rebel Without a Kitchen, premieres on August 20, 2013 on the Asian Food Channel (Starhub channel 435) at 9.30pm.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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